Cupcake and I were self-isolating with good reason before the poop hit the fan. This began way back in early February. We got the ugly news about a month ago when the blood labs check engine light came on. Her CBC test for White Blood Cells (WBC) came back very low after radiation therapy. Seems every laboratory has a different spread of what constitutes high or low readings. Apparently 3,000 or less of them boogers on any scale is not good. It becomes a problem when you don’t have enough because your body needs them to fight off bugs like flu, colds and… coronavirus. I have to isolate with her to avoid dragging the dreaded bug in from the post office or from meeting with clients. If I absolutely have to leave, she makes me strip to the birthday suit in the laundry room when I return and take a shower. The clothes go straight to the washing machine.
This Corona dilemma isn’t so ominous or mentally depressing as it sounds. I imagine it would be if you lived in an apartment building and all you had was an iguana and a view of your parking lot. We don’t. We live on five acres and it’s not a viable solution to tell the horses they have to get their own hay, water and feed. My feral kitty Ambush lacks an opposing thumb and finds it difficult to reload her food dish. Pickles and Widget live indoors with us and my parrot Buddy so we all quiver in place except for poop patrols and the mailbox run. I’m not so asinine as to deprive the dogs from hanging out with their buds in the neighborhood. Aly, Jakson and Gus still come over for playtime every day. I hear dogs can get this but I doubt they’re going to get it around here. We don’t live near any nursing homes.
I’ve been browbeating the old BVA hearings Coordinator in Seattle( Tammy S.) to crank out one of my widow’s BVA wins. She’s been camped out on it for almost a month. The National Work Queue nowadays kites rating decisions all over the country to be written. Tammy has to follow their lead. In this case, some gomer in Newark granted two A&As-one each for Bob’s IHD and his three cancer sites (brain, sinus and lungs). I wrote about this recently and here it pops up in my back yard.
Tammy is good at coordinating hearings. Unfortunately, her mathematical prowess is lacking. She did pick up on the two SMC Ls for A&A but blew it on the number of months due. She came up with six. I guess that’s the newfangled VA math, huh? When you first win, VA begins paying you the month following your win. When you die, your spouse or estate gets one last check the month following your demise. It’s called the Month of Death check or MOD. If you lived two minutes into a new day on a new month, you get paid for that whole month. Quy Nhon Bob made it all the way to noon on July 1st, 2018. Ergo, his widow was entitled to that month for his comp. check. VA had rated him on June 21st, 2018- ten days before he punched out- with a 100% schedular with an effective date of December 26th, 2017 for P&T at SMC S. Count with me, folks. All of December, January, February, March, April, May, June….and July. I come up with eight months. They gave him SMC S for that period but inexplicably, when we got the Rating decision back after the BVA win in February, they granted two A&As. For some reason, they revisited the 6/21/18 and gave him SMC L (A&A) for the IHD at 100%.
Tammy emailed me back and said SMC wasn’t her strong point and she had asked for a good mentor to walk her through this one. She started doing ratings back in 2007 when she went to work for VA. She went back to her old calling in 2019 after the inception of the AMA and the BVA honchos taking over her hearing board coordination duties. Tammy, or her super duper mentor Katrina, need to go back to SMC school. They tried to use the SMC calculator. Not. She did, to her credit, dial in on the dual A&As but only came up with six months instead of eight.
Here’s the problem. Tammy granted SMC “O” for two SMCs at the L rate- the two aid and attendance ratings which are separate and distinct. However, as most know, When you are granted SMC O, and one of the SMC Ls is for A&A, you get to do the chutes and ladders game and advance to R1. It makes no difference if you have more than one A&A. The metric is that you must have two ratings between SMC L and N-period- to qualify for SMC O. If one is for A&A, you yell Bingo! There’s another arduous path via SMC N 1/2 plus a SMC K which would get you there but that’s a mighty tall order. You’d dang near look like a 50-gallon barrel with your head sticking out. No legs,arms or a winky. SMC N is spartan in its requirements.
I’ve studied SMC for years and still call up my old former BVA Veterans Law Judge Brad for a “what if…” every once in a while. This is SMC 101 though…unless you’re trying purposefully to shortchange the Veteran. No one can tell me the M 21 suddenly gets vague and balky when it comes time to input the LOU/A&A parameters. Once you get to SMC O, the language in the regulation §3.350(e),(h) is explicit and easily decyphered.
(h) Special aid and attendance benefit; 38 U.S.C. 1114(r) – (1) Maximum compensation cases. A veteran receiving the maximum rate under 38 U.S.C. 1114 (o) or (p) who is in need of regular aid and attendance or a higher level of care is entitled to an additional allowance during periods he or she is not hospitalized at United States Government expense.
Looks like Tammy and her mentor Katrina V. only looked at §3.350(e). My quandary is whether to do a VAF 20-0996 Higher Level of Review (HLR) or go to the BVA on direct review and have someone who can count without using their fingers do it. Since there is no intelligent life at the 56 ROs across our fruited plains, my choice is limited. From what I’ve seen so far, a HLR would probably produce an identical result and a confirmation that Tammy and Katrina are spot on. In all my years of doing DRO formal reviews, all I ever encountered was a copy and paste of the original denial with essentially a “What part of ‘no’ did you overlook?” Here, the relative inability to understand SMC at all indicates the futility of a successful do over. I’m hearing from other Attorneys that some of these HLR
litigators er VA examiners are emailing or sending us letters saying they refuse to do a HLR informal telephone call because nothing we say would ever change their minds. Many of these attorneys have submitted legal briefs to explain the error. VA puts these in the circular file and claims we are not permitted to submit squat. Imagine. Due process? The right to face your denier? This is quite obviously not what Congress envisioned. I wonder how long it will be before someone at the corner of Delay and Deny Ave. notices this glitch. Until then, I won’t be going anywhere near a HLR filing.
Meanwhile back at the COVID 19 gig, the humor rolls in. I certainly don’t subscribe to the suffering of others but I learned a long time ago about the depravities of war. This is really no different. We’re all on the firing line. The Golden BB could find any one of us on a given day. That’s no reason to pout and have existential meltdowns. Life will eventually right itself. We’ll all look back on this like 9/11/2001 or the economic meltdown in 2008. Shit happens and then it goes away.
Try as I might, I try to avoid laughing about this corona business. I don’t buy 4 rolls of TP at a time. Costco only sells it in the “nuclear” packaging-like enough to last you ’til the Cesium 137 level outside gets below 4,000 ppm in 2021. The same applies to peanut butter and steaks. That’s why we have freezers, folks.
Within the next month to six weeks, we’ll all look back on this as a bad dream. The government, meanwhile, will have found a way to spend trillions on crap we’ll never use. Hotels will be converted into hospitals and then converted back into hotels. Everyone will be poorer except for those who were heavily invested in the stock market who got the ‘word’ ahead of time and bailed. Cupcake and I lucked out on that one. When I was cured of Hepatitis C by a Gilead Sciences product (Sovaldi), I decided to help them out and bought about $10 K worth of shares at $59. It never went anywhere…until last week. I see it hit $78 last Thursday. Rather than piss all of you off out there and dump it, I decided to hold on to it and let it go where it will.
Last on the Saturday report is a daisy from my good friend Ed the LURP. Keep your eye on the doughnut. A word of warning. Be safe. If you buy any veggies at the grocery store, scald them with hot water. Seems the teenage pukes are spitting and coughing all over them in hopes of decimating us old folks. Ditto toilets. I hear the new Corona challenge is to lick the rim. I hear a double dog dare involves taping Tide pods around the rim. Cool beans.